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Pacific Rim rules out food export limits

Asia-Pacific nations including China, the US and Japan promised measures to boost growth yesterday and rejected limits on food exports to try to revive the flagging global economy.

Countries on the Pacific Rim ended a two-day summit on an island off the Russian port city of Vladivostok by expressing concern about the state of the world economy, global food security and growing signs of protectionism.

The 21 members of the Asian-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) group agreed to slash import duties on green technology, take steps to bolster growth and liberalise trade to counter problems heightened by Europe’s debt crisis.

"The financial markets remain fragile, while high public deficits and debts in some advanced economies are creating strong headwinds to economic recovery globally. The events in Europe are adversely affecting growth in the region," they said.

"In such circumstances, we are resolved to work collectively to support growth and foster financial stability, and restore confidence."

Apec, which also groups Malaysia, Indonesia, Canada and South Korea, makes decisions by consensus and its moves are not binding. But its influence is growing as Europe’s declines.

It accounts for 40% of the world’s population, 54% of its economic output and 44% of its trade. In the US, China and Japan, it has the world’s three largest economies.

Despite concern about Europe’s debt problems, Apec welcomed European leaders’ attempts to resolve the crisis.

IMF director Christine Lagarde, who arrived for the last day of the summit, also signalled support for an ECB plan to staunch the crisis with unlimited bond purchases.

She expressed an interest in the IMF playing a role in the design and monitoring of the ECB plan, under which the central bank would stand ready to buy sovereign debt with maturities of up to three years in return for a bailout deal.

"There’s a general sense that the world economy is a little fragile... but there’s confidence that we can get through this," New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told reporters.

The Pacific-Rim countries agreed this must not be done through protectionism. Despite a drought that has hit crops in the US and Russia, which are global wheat suppliers, they ruled out limiting food exports and underlined the importance of open markets to ensure reliable food supplies.

They also endorsed a list of 54 environmental goods on which import duties will be reduced to no more than 5% by 2015, including equipment for renewable energy, waste treatment and environmental monitoring.

Putin used the summit to grandstand four months after returning to the Kremlin and less than a month after Moscow joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Underlining Russia’s growing status as a wheat supplier, he said Russia would ramp up grain production and more than double exports by 2020.

Russia and the US are both looking to Asia, where growth is relatively strong, in a pivotal turn to boost their economies following the 2008-9 global financial crisis.



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